What had he been saying? Sebastian took a moment to remember, and then blushed and looked away as he realized his pause had been noticed. She looked at him inquiringly, her expression concerned, as though worried her flawless appearance might be marred by something unsightly, but then the ship lurched beneath them.

'I think I'm going to be sick.' She stumbled to the side and bent over the deck, but she did not throw up.

Sebastian forced himself to get over the shock of that first real sight of Miranda Aisling and followed her across the deck. 'You'll find your sea legs soon enough Miss Miranda.'

He was not prepared for the angry retort. Why would anyone want to live in that world they had found her in? It was… he shook his head. His low opinions of the realm of reality meant nothing. It was her home, and that was reason enough to want to go back.

She was so beautiful. She was confident but uncertain. She talked logic and rational but her eyes were full of sorrow and fear that had no reason to be there. She clung to the rationality of her world over the wonders of his, just as she clung to the grief of her mother's passing.

All these things, Sebastian realized in those moments of first meeting her, and so when she yelled at him, he stepped back. He understood what she was thinking, but not what he should say. Was there anything he could say? Was there anything she was ready to hear? Besides, maybe the reason she wanted to go home so badly was that there was someone waiting for her there. Who was he to interfere, when he knew beyond a doubt that she would eventually have to go back there anyway?

*

What was she doing? Why couldn't they open the door? Sebastian rubbed his shoulder once and ran at the door again, but it didn't budge. 'Miranda!' His cry was joined by Cassey's and Alan's, but there was no answering call from the other side.

The ship rocked violently. Perhaps the sea monster had already eaten her?

And then, there was the most ethereal sound. Sebastian recognized it at once, though he had never heard it so close before. Mermaid song. The ship stilled. The ocean started to calm. As a group, they all ran at the door again, and it burst open so easily they almost all tripped over each other when they froze in surprise.

Laying across the deck in a ray of moonlight, her limbs spread around her like a starfish, was Miranda. The white of her nightdress seemed to shine in the silver spotlight, and it took a second for any of them to move again. They held their breath, afraid that she was dead, however lovely she looked in this one moment, but also marvelling in the fact that she was there at all, however near death she may be.

It was her sister who broke the spell. She rushed to her side and checked her pulse. 'She's alive!' Cassey yelled.

Alan was there in a flash. He scooped Miranda tenderly into his arms and carried her back to them. They laid her on the couch in the library, and Alan checked her over thoroughly. Her eyelids were not completely closed, but beneath them her eyes trembled oddly, and she seemed to be blinking so rapidly the motion couldn't be seen, though the movement could. Sebastian had never felt so worried, or so useless.

'I think she's just fainted,' Alan said at last.

Sebastian hoped his sigh of relief didn't sound too earnest. Malachi shot him a curious glance, though.

Leaning over the back of the couch, Sebastian hardly had the best position around Miranda's unconscious body, but he passed the vial of smelling salts under her nose without spilling all over her, and then pulled his hand away. They all leaned over her, even Malachi, so Sebastian didn't feel like he was showing too much concern, though when she opened her eyes he couldn't stop himself from grinning.

*

And in that moment, when their lips met, Sebastian forgot about the battle. He forgot about the fear, and the wonder of the dragon above them, and the terror, and the danger, and the trolls. He forgot about his nervousness, and his constant reminders not to get attached, and the fact that she would soon be going back to her own world, and after a moment, he even forgot about his surprise.

There was only one world. That one moment. There was only the two of them, and though the kiss ended all too soon, that moment would go on forever.

He didn't get to say goodbye to Miranda Aisling. In a way, that kiss had been their goodbye. They both knew that was all they would ever have, but for two people who had so little in common, not even a single realm of existence, maybe, just maybe, it was enough.

The End